Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Matisyahu -- Got No Water

I seen the ways of the world intoxifying on pride
Young man don't you know drugs impurify your mind
When Israel left mitzrayim four fifths got left behind

I just downloaded Matisyahu's Shake Off the Dust... Arise a few days ago, and it's good stuff. How else can you learn Torah while listening to reggae? And the above part of "Got No Water" interested me. I hadn't heard that 4/5 of the Jews in Egypt didn't make the Exodus, so I googled it, and found that this interpretation comes from one of many possible ways a single word in a single line of Torah can be read... Shemot 13:18 says "...And Children of Israel were armed" and Rashi says that the word for "armed" can also be understood to be derived from the word "five" and this implies that one out of five departed Egypt and the other four fifths died in the plague of darkness. And earlier, when this plague is discussed, apparently the Jews who didn't want to leave Egypt died... so this would mean that four fifths of the Jews in Egypt didn't want to leave Egypt and died as a result. But how many of us can really say we honestly want to leave Mitzrayim today? After all, we never really left. That's why we are still doing the Haggadah every year. That's why we say Next Year in Jerusalem. That's why Jews living in Israel are still really in exile...

This reminds me of what our rabbi said on Shabbat about the real crime of Sodom and and Gemorrah (as opposed to the Christian idea that it's all about non-vaginal sex, which seems to spring, as many Christian ideas do, from poor translation of the Hebrew). So, according to the rabbis, what made Sodom so terrible? That they believed "What's mine is mine, and what's yours is yours." Simple. And scary. After all, isn't that basic common-sense property law? Isn't following this idea what defines one as "law-abiding?" The Sodomites forgot that they were wealthy because G-d had blessed the land and made it fruitful, and they started to think it was from their merits, and they wanted to keep from having to share any of their wealth. So this is the real reason the crowd came to Lot's house to harrass the guests -- it wasn't a crazy gay sex party, it was to basically beat the shit out of the guests because they wanted to discourage visitors and immigrants who would be a drain to their treasure. They were so greedy they did things like fence in fruit trees, even the tops so that no one, not even birds, could get at their fruit.

It's beautiful stuff. We are all in Mitzrayim, but we are also in danger of becoming Sodomites, and we can see Sodomites all around us! We have to watch ourselves and our attitudes towards those who have less than we. We must remember that the source of all our blessings isn't our hard work, but G-d, and that G-d gives some of us more than others just so we can act as G-d's representative and properly disburse this extra money to those that need it.


Carol said...


lee said...

Thank you, Carol. I followed your instructions, I'll have you know. It was the best Thanksgiving.

Carol said...

I just read a short article on Matisiyahu in Haaretz this morning.